Horizon: Zero Dawn was the surprise of 2017, in many ways. It’s not like people weren’t excited about the prospect of a new game from the developers of the Killzone franchise, but a new IP is always risky and Guerilla was taking a sizable step out of their comfort zone, going from a first-person shooter to a third-person action-adventure set in a massive open world. Any doubts were quickly smashed into pieces though, as Forbidden west sold over 2.5.-million copies in just the first two weeks, and as I write this that number is now over 20-million. Clearly, Sony had a new franchise on its hands and a sequel was all but inevitable, especially as Guerilla had carefully laid the foundations for Aloy’s next adventure. Half a decade later that sequel has finally arrived, and while it’s not a true PS5 exclusive, Horizon: Forbidden West is a safe, solid follow-up that will doubtless sell millions more copies before the series disappears for another 5-years.
Achievements and Trophies can tell you a lot about a game. They can inform us of how people played a game, or at what point they started to give up. In the case of The Waylanders however, the Steam Achievements paint a damaging picture of just how quickly players gave up on it. An Achievement for completing a story mission, an unavoidable Achievement earned a mere hour or two into the game, lists a measly 17.6% of players have got it. That number gets almost halved for the next story achievement, just 8.1% at the time of writing this. And the Achievement for reaching level 3, which doesn’t take long, is just 2.9%.
Not For Broadcast is one of the most interesting and unique games I’ve played in a very long time. This little indie game puts you behind the scenes of the Nightly National News program, cutting between camera’s, censoring anything naughty and ensuring a smooth show so that leading news anchor Jeremy Donaldson can deliver the headlines to the nation. Amidst Not For Broadcast’s crazier moments is a story of people, governments, propaganda, the power that media wields and tough choices. Despite some issues, this is one broadcast you don’t want to miss because it might just end up being your game of the year.
Waking up in a small shed with no pants on is a worryingly familiar scene, but thankfully this time it’s in a videogame. In this instance, I’m Nobody, a white humanoid thing with black, empty eye-sockets and a cliche case of amnesia. As the helpful woman outside the shed points out, however, amnesia is no excuse for the lack of underwear. I’m inclined to agree. Unfortunately, Nobody seems to be the only one saving this world from the evil Calamity which is in the process of covering everything in some hideous goop. Armed with nothing but a wand that lets him change forms (and still no pants) it’s up to Nobody to save the day, get his memories back, figure out where the great wizard has gone and destroy the calamity.
I’m on a spaceship with a talking tree, a creature that most definitely isn’t a raccoon and a space Llama. In any other game this could be considered weird, but in Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s just a Monday. Assuming they have Mondays in space. It was never brought up. The point is, the Guardians of the Galaxy are one of the strangest groups in comic books, and until Marvel turned them into a household name in 2014 they were a relatively unknown bunch of misfits that dealt in some of the weirdest aspects of the Marvel universe. So a videogame based on their antics sounds like a perfect fit. We deal in weird shit all the time. How does their first foray into games hold up?
Halo Infinite certainly opens with a bang, leaping straight into a cinematic that picks up exactly where Halo 5 left us during its cliffhanger ending. We witness the UNSC Infinity being destroyed at the hands of the Banished, while the Master Chief is systematically picked apart by the hulking form of Atriox, a character first introduced in Halo Wars 2. As opening sequences go it’s definitely explosive and attention-grabbing, but it’s also the first example of how Infinite can feel rushed and at odds with itself; you never get to take control of the Chief and join the fight for the Infinity. The destruction of the Infinity, a major part of the Halo lore, is glossed over in a brief cutscene, the death of its crew barely shown. There was a perfect opportunity to create a level built around the desperate fight to save the ship and the inevitable loss you would have to suffer at the hands of Atriox. For some reason, however, 343 opt to tell the players what happened and rarely show, a theme that permeates the entirety of Halo Infinite.
German developer Monokel are the new kids on the block, entering the fray with their first project, White Shadows. These are probably the game’s I hate reviewing the most because criticising any new developer trying to enter the scene with something cool and different feels like running up to a child and punching them in the kidney. But as I always I write reviews with the player in mind, not the developer. White Shadows is certainly unique and a hell of a debut for a new company in many regards. It shows incredible artistic strength. The gameplay just isn’t up to par, however. So let’s jump into this.
Microsoft did us all a solid by dropping Halo: Infinite’s free-to-play multiplayer like a freaking ODST from the sky when we weren’t expecting it. It was a big-boy play by Microsoft and was instantly rewarded by a tidal wave of people downloading and jumping into what many consider to be the year’s biggest release. To the credit of Microsoft and 343 everything held up well and Halo: Infinite’s launch wasn’t plagued by the server crashes, bugs and glitches that most other launches these days get hit by. And yes, I’m looking directly at Battlefield 2032 as I type this. A few weeks on and just days ahead of the Halo: Infinite campaign launching, I’m here to review the multiplayer. Am I late to the party? Yup, but to be perfectly honest, that’s because I’ve been playing Halo: Infinite and couldn’t be arsed to write this when I could be nailing headshots like I nailed your mum. Oh God, this game brings out the teenager in me.
Indie games are the home of some of the best puzzle-based experiences around because they are willing to take unique, interesting ideas and run with them, or in some cases roll with them. That’s Tandem: A Tale of Shadows in a nutshell. The opening cutscene lays down the basis of this weird story: little Emma is intrigued by the disappearance of Thomas Kane, the only son of the famed Kane Illusionists who disappeared a decade prior. Scotland Yard have failed entirely to penetrate the twisted Kane mansion which houses all manner of oddities. On her way to the gothic abode a teddy bear falls from a speeding carriage, and to little Emma’s surprise, the bear immediately jumps up and pursues the runaway vehicle. Together, Emma and Fenton the teddy enter the mysterious home of the Kane’s and wind up working in tandem to solve the numerous puzzles that hide dark secrets.
Jurassic Park: Evolution 2 was ultimately a charming but slow management game that suffered from a lack of depth. The magic of breeding and looking after massive dinosaurs gave way to fairly bog-standard gameplay interspersed with moments of chaos when a T-rex broke free and ate a few paying customers. When Frontier announced a sequel I was excited to see if they could fulfil all the potential the original had of being a casual but hugely entertaining sim-park title. As evolutions go, this one has a few random mutations that need to be removed from the genome if there’s going to be a third game, but overall it’s a decent improvement. It’s bigger, it’s meatier, it’s toothier. If the first game was the classic T-rex, this is the Indominus Rex. Welcome, to Jurassic World: Evolution 2.